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Archive for September, 2011

TEEWAVE AR1: A True EV Sports Car

September 30th, 2011

TEEWAVE AR1

How many of you oldsters remember the Lotus Seven (now the Caterham Seven)? Years ago, I drove one for about five minutes and have never been the same since. Lotus and Colin Chapman pioneered the idea of very lightweight, high-performing sports cars, and the world hasn’t been the same since.

But sports cars have gotten more powerful, a lot heavier, and less efficient at getting somewhere. Like many of us.

Now comes a resurrection of the Lotus/Chapman concept, the TEEWAVE AR1, a car that was designed and built in just nine months. The electric powertrain comes from Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, producing a mere 63 hp and 133 lb-ft of torque. The car is about the size of an Elise or a Miata and weighs just 1,852 pounds.

Range is claimed to be 114 miles; recharging takes six hours. It is 882 pounds lighter than the Tesla Roadster, but the Roadster is a lot more powerful. The TEEWAVE may be peerless in handling, but 0-62 mph takes 11.4 seconds and cries out for a power boost.

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Hyundai to Build 10-Speed Transmission, But Why?

September 30th, 2011

2011 Hyundai Equus

I’m guessing plenty of CarGurus readers know much more about semi trucks than I do, but when I read that Hyundai plans to release a 10-speed transmission for its luxury cars in 2014, I wondered how that compared with the number of gears in the big rigs.

Some quick research told me that, in fact, the most common number of gears in an 18-wheeler is 10.

Do our luxury cars really need the same number of gears as semi trucks?

I don’t think so. But, with Lexus and others using 8-speed trannies, it only makes sense that an automaker wants to one-up (or, in this case, two-up) them. Ford and Chevy engage in fierce horsepower wars, and now it looks like the transmission wars are upon us. How incredibly…dorky.

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Car Industry News, Car Minded, Foreign Cars, General Chat

When I’ll Stop Laughing at Land Rover

September 29th, 2011

Land Rover DC100 Concept Sport

Land Rover has had a troubled history as a company. The original 1948 firm got sold to British Leyland in the ‘60s (maybe the worst British car group ever), then British Aerospace, then BMW, then Ford, now Tata Motors.

None of these corporate shifts appear to have done it any good. Tata merged Land Rover with Jaguar (JLR), and the company has dropped 30 percent in market value over the last six months.

The Economic Times (of India) says the company needs to develop synergies between its two brands or, perhaps, split them apart. JLR says it plans to double its sales in India this year. Who are you going to believe here?

What JLR really needs is to determine, finally, its identity in today’s marketplace. Is it going to make fashion-statement cars, like the Evoque or the DC100 Concept Sport (above, shown in Frankfurt)? Or will it return to its roots as the world’s best off-road vehicle?

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Cars Coming Soon: Will Lincoln’s New Smile Change Everything?

September 29th, 2011

2012 Lincoln MKT

I happen to think Lincoln’s current grille is, to put it mildly, quite disfiguring.

If the Honda CR-V is the vehicle with the biggest underbite, the current Lincolns sport one of the heaviest overbites ever applied to an automotive fascia. It’s awkward on all models, but none more than the Beluga whale that is the MKT.

There has been plenty of talk from parent company Ford about its desire to revamp the Lincoln line and make it a world-class luxury brand. With a billion dollars being pumped into Lincoln’s rebuild, Ford knows the vehicles have to look the part, and the current “waterfall grille” isn’t going to do it. Expect a completely different Lincoln look to debut on the MKS and MKT at the LA Auto Show this November.

In addition to new looks, Ford wants to make sure the Lincoln driving experience is differentiated from the average Fusion and Flex, so the refreshed models will ride atop revised suspensions, redone brakes and updated steering.

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The OnStar Debacle: What Were They Thinking?

September 28th, 2011

OnStar command center

OnStar, as you may have heard, was tracking its customers for seatbelt use, vehicle speed and location, and “other data”—even after they had cancelled their subscriptions. You had to formally opt out to get it shut off. And it seems they were sharing the data with third parties, i.e., selling it.

This upset a lot of people, including three U.S. Senators, the Federal Trade Commission, which considered an investigation, and of course many OnStar users. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called OnStar’s action “one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory.”

The car media naturally went crazy. Alltop’s Autos page (which shows extensive car blog postings) listed 26 OnStar stories this morning. But none of them asked the big question: How could the company be so dumb as to institute the policy in the first place? How could it not foresee the consequences?

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Will Compressed Air Ever Power Our Cars?

September 28th, 2011
Tata compressed-air car?

The real thing or just a bad Photoshop creation?

I do a lot of research on cars and the auto industry and sometimes see old stories resurface and get reported as new again. One of those happened yesterday, when I saw the headline, “Tata’s New Target- A Car to Run On Compressed Air.” The story is dated September 27, 2011, and mentions the new air-powered Tata MiniCAT (sometimes called a CityCAT).

How interesting. Because it sure seems like I’ve heard that before… Oh yes, here we go. Here’s the same story from July 9, 2008.

The “air-powered car” story has certainly made the rounds, and for some reason people still cling to hope that its release is imminent. However, a search on Tata’s website turns up zero results, and no new information seems to have surfaced since 2008. The technology is said to have been invented by Guy Nigre and his company MDI.

The early stories at least seem somewhat credible, as Autoblog reported in 2007,

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Green Update: Lutz Keeps on Truckin’—Now with VIA

September 27th, 2011

VIA truck

At 79, Bob Lutz is not your retiring kind of guy. He recently signed on as a special advisor with GM, as we reported. He’s on an advisory board for Lotus Cars.

Now he has cut a deal to work with VIA Motors, a small Utah startup company that does electric conversions of Chevy trucks, vans and SUVs.

One thing about Lutz: Despite his reputation as an old-line, hard-line car guy who embodied all the worst aspects of “brand management,” Lutz has changed his mind and his attitudes on many things, becoming a big advocate for electric vehicles and a new business model for Detroit.

It’s pretty clear that the man who promoted and helped create the Volt found a company in VIA that would take plug-in technology to the next (range-extended) level. VIA specializes in converting Chevy commercial vehicles for extended-range fleet use.

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Nissan Super Juke: 480 Horses of Madness

September 27th, 2011

Nissan Super Juke

My son and I like to play a game called Ugliest Car in the World.

It’s quite simple and evolved out of the old Slug Bug game we play. You know the one, where you see any Volkswagen Beetle, call out “Slug bug!” and then punch your friend in the arm. We have all sorts of variants that my son, being the car kid he is, has invented. Ugliest Car in the World is his newest and involves…wait for it…the Nissan Juke.

We first saw the Juke, in person, at an auto show. My son couldn’t believe his wee little eyes, walking around the car and gasping from every angle about its, umm, unconventional looks. Ever since then, every time we see one on the road, he yells, “Ugliest car in the world!” and hits me. It’s fun.

Soon, though, if the rumor is true, a new game called Coolest Car in the World might apply to a new version of the Juke.

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New Dodge Hornet to Be Based on Alfa Giulietta

September 26th, 2011

Dodge Alfa Hornet, front

The transformation has finally begun: Dodge is dropping the dreadful Caliber, and in its place comes a new car, probably named the Hornet and based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

The photo above (by KGP Photography) shows a car with something like the Giulietta shape, though the front-end treatment is new. Absolutely anything would be better than the Caliber, which Kurt Ernst nominated “worst domestic car of the past decade.” But FIAT appears finally to be bringing something truly worthwhile to the American market.

According to various web sources, the car will come in 4- and 5-door versions, with a FIAT 1.4-liter MultiAir engine producing 168 hp or, for the lead-footed, a 232-hp, 1.8-liter turbo, used in the Giulietta QV. The car is likely to have either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed dual-clutch automatic.

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2014 Ford Mustang Will Reach for the Future

September 26th, 2011

Ford Evos Concept

Ford might finally be done looking to the past for design inspiration and be ready to forge a new path into pony-car future.

Since its introduction as a 1964 1/2 model, the Mustang has defined the pony car and led the industry in innovation. Well, aside from a few questionable years when some might say the Mustang lost its soul. Okay, maybe 30 questionable years depending on who you ask. The 1974 through 2004 Mustangs might be best described as “polarizing,” but they still had a loyal following and sold ridiculously well.

But it wasn’t until the retro-styled 2005 Mustang debuted that the pony car was re-invented. Since then the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro have spawned modern takes of their old selves. But how long can looking into the past provide for a rewarding future? Ford thinks the answer to that question is 2014.

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